in difesa del rosato: in defense of pink wine

by Silvestro on August 11, 2010

I can’t think of any other wine that represents such a polemic.

Can you?

You can almost predict what folks will think and say about it, just by reading their bank statements or passport stamps, assuming that they’d let you read those sorts of things. But I think there are really only four true stances on the subject of pink wine:

1) That of those that spent time in Provence and developed a taste for it.

2) That of those that cut their wine teeth on the stuff, thus are convinced that it just can’t be any good, the enogastronomic version of your high school haircut.

3)That of those that see it as a great summery picnic wine.

4) That of us here, who have been enjoying pink wine longer than anyone else in all of Italy.  We love the stuff! And we drink not just more of it, but we drink differently too.

Wait, I better explain.

Like beauty itself, grape colour is only skin-deep. You can make red wine from red grapes but you can also make white wine (as in champagne, or at least a portion of champagne) from red grapes. You do this by pressing the grapes and then removing the juice right away, not leaving the juice in contact with the skins.


But a nifty thing happens if you step out to lunch or go to bed for the night while making white wine from red grapes, before you separate the skins from the pulp: the prettiest colours come forth. As do the more assertive flavours and tannins. Think of pink wine as a gutsier form of white wine, rather than a wimpy red. Flavour-wise, that’s exactly where it lives.


The first pink wine in all of Italy has bottled here, in the Salento, the piece of land that I love more than any other. It’s always placed an important here in the food. If you are one to follow ‘if they grow together they go together’, then the food of Salento certainly developed alongside pink wine. Perhaps even more so than the world famous reds.

But let’s return to our list and take a glance at each:

Pink wines have been very popular in Latin Europe for a long time, enjoyed for their playful, summer-on-the-terrace sort of feel, the sun passing through the glass, dancing in pink ripples across your tan knuckles and then white table cloth.  Pinks SEEM like the kind of wine one should drink while on holiday, like linen shorts or sarongs, just in a glass.

And as for the South of France, this isn’t the first time that the world owes a culinary debt to the French. As Provence is the ‘Tuscany’ of France, it’s where the tourists go, only to return home with a desire to reconnect with their time there.  And while the pink wines of Southern France seem often a bit too simplistic to my tongue, each time I do drink one, it does occur to me that I need to visit Arles again, perhaps this time while wearing a beret and a boating shirt.

For 2), it’s not pink wines fault but for some reason they were marketed as entry level wines, wine for those that were moving away from cocktails with umbrellas and names that would cause your own mother to smack your cursin’ mouth. That was accomplished by playing to the cheap seats, that is, those that expected their alcohol to be sweet. Perhaps you remember those days. Perhaps you’re still friends with the woman that held your hair afterward.

If you want to hate those wines from the disco days in order to mark you arrival into sophistication, hate them because they were non-dessert wines that were sweet, a style of wine that today couldn’t be more out of fashion. Like people, if you have to hate, hate them for the lack of character, rather than their colour.

And most visitors that come to our school here in Italy seem to say the same thing, that rosès are great summer wines. Fresh, young and zippy, pink wines seem to dance when the summer sun passes through them, stunners there in the glass.

And then there is us, who drink pink wine all year long because it’s good. And because, what else are you going to drink with a grilled octopus? A white is too light, a red too heavy. Singe the fatty skin of a really fresh mackerel over an olive wood fire and an assertive glass of dry pink has the backbone to match it, complimentary flavours for the heavier, lighter dishes, if that makes any sense.

I just took a break from writing this and visited Mimmino, my trusted fishmonger for the last ten years. In the bottom of my refrigerator are now two fresh Mediterranean tuna steaks, which I’ll just sear for a few seconds in a scorching hot pan. But open the door of my refrigerator and take a peak: Next to Mimmino’s fish is a bottle of pink, the two such age old friends in these parts that you’ll rarely see one without the other.

And unlike haircuts or musical trends or dance styles, somethings are timeless, classic, preserved for no reason any loftier than the fact that they are just plain, good.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Cooking with Michele August 12, 2010 at 9:03 am

Love the pinks of Salento – but now I can’t get the picture of you in a beret wearing a boating shirt out of my head!

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Valerie September 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

Really great piece. Have re-discoverd a love for the pinks thanks to the French and particularly the southern Italian styles. I have jokes that ‘mass-produced American White Zin is served in hell’, and it often tarnishes one’s opinion – but was where I started 12 years ago. A little education in Italy this past year (and ongoing) – well, you can guess what I’ve been drinking a lot more of this summer. I hope to study Southern Italian wines more in the future – Grazie tanto!

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Chef Gwen January 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

I am SO happy to read this ode to pink! I drink it all year, too, because it is a spectacular food wine. It helps I live in the desert, too, but I would still drink it if I lived in Antarctica. Thank you for spreading the word.

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Chef Gwen January 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm

A man after my own heart! (or rosé 😉 Thank you for so eloquently stating the case for year-long pink drinking. I can’t think of a more food-friendly wine, other than a nice, dry rosé. I sampled plenty of delicious rosatos on my trip to Italy last May.

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Valeria March 23, 2011 at 7:44 am

can’t agree with you more on that! The perception that rosé is somehow inferior to red and whites is precisely just a perception –due to habit, common sense, reputation etc.- and I really can’t think about Salento food without a perfect rosé pairing. We visited two producers, Cantele and Candido, and their rosé wine were simply amazing!

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Silvestro December 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm

We debutted out wine course last October. http://www.awaitingtable.com
Consider a visit!

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Maribel May 8, 2011 at 5:05 am

Thank you for so putting it so well. I have just come back from a trip in Salento and was very impressed with the pink wine from your lovely area. Nothing like other pinks I’ve tasted.

I was surprised to find out that it is made with Negroamaro grapes – without the peel. Gorgeous in color and amazing on the tongue.

Can’t wait to visit Salento again!

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Will Douglas September 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I love rosato from Salento, and I just had one which I will say straight away is the best I’ve tasted so far – velvety, a little more corpulent, and somewhat less acidic than is typical. It’s called Mastri Vinai, from a producer in Cellino San Marco. 70% Negroamaro / 30% Malvasia Bianca.

When pairing rose with food, especially here in Salento, let’s not forget Zuppa di Pesce. Exctasy !

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Silvestro December 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Are you sure it’s malvasia bianca? that would be highly illegal here in Italy

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christine January 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Began drinking wine in the 1960’s in Germany where I lived for a year: a lot of Rhines and Moselles. Got back to the states and continued drinking wines. The only pink wines available then were rosés and they were two sweet for me. Haven’t really tried any pinks, have read about them and your article was great so I will be looking for some!!

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